ShareAll sharing options for:Army of the Dead (2021) review: Zack Snyder’s return to zombies is ridiculously fun!
- Twitter (opens in new window)
- Facebook (opens in new window)
- Reddit (opens in new window)
- Pocket (opens in new window)
- Flipboard (opens in new window)
- Email (opens in new window)
Long before he became the face of a comic book universe or started becoming known for slow motion action epics, director Zack Snyder started on already ambitious and controversial ground. Back in 2004, he made his directorial debut with a remake of George A. Romero’s celebrated 1978 zombie horror Dawn of the Dead. Following the maestro of undead cinema was no mean feat but Snyder’s film has attained a deserved reputation as one of the best horror remakes and had its fair share of interesting themes and ideas. Now, almost 20 years later, Snyder returns to these cinematic roots in spiritual successor Army of the Dead for Netflix (although it has received a cinema run too in America).
The film sees a future where a zombie outbreak hit Las Vegas leading to a violent struggle to contain the living dead threat, resulting in an eventual quarantining of the city. Some time later, plans are afoot to finally pull the trigger and level Las Vegas with a nuclear strike, but as the surrounding forces/camps begin their departure in preparation for this day, a wealthy Casino owner sees his opportunity to enter the city and snatch back his untouched stockpile of $200 million from a vault in one of his old casinos. To accomplish this task he reaches out to Scott Ward (Dave Bautista), a former mercenary who fought in the initial battle for Las Vegas and lost his wife in the process, asking him to a assemble a team and enter the quarantine zone and get the money. A task for which, he’ll receive a hefty share of the cash.
Army of the Dead blends heist movie and zombie flick, resulting in a concept that is ludicrous but played so enjoyably like a high concept 80s or 90s actioner, it is impossible to resist. Snyder unapologetically indulges in some of his usual excesses to present a crazy zombie romp that hits the ground running (so to speak) and throws everything at the screen, from a zombie tiger (a real scene stealer) to an undead Elvis…and much much more amidst its viscera-drenched 2 and a half hours. Some have bemoaned the running time but frankly the pace is kept at such a constant that it felt to fly by. Plus there is so much here to keep you invested, from some sly little blink-and-miss references, to undead teaming action sequences and, some rather intriguing zombie mythos.
Snyder, Shay Hatten and Joby Harold’s screenplay embraces some zombie lore from past revered entries in the genre but also allows some of it to mutate in interesting and barmy ways, transforming the undead here almost into another strand of nature. This direction feels creative for a big budget genre film and there are some odd but striking scenes that ought to well and truly leave some viewers with much to – ahem – chew on. There are also some plot elements within that leave the film open to other interpretations, without distracting from the simple efficiency of the main ‘enter, grab the cash and leave’ thriller premise. Like a Dead Rising video game, Snyder is clearly having fun wielding so many elements at once and of course it’s not all perfectly structured, subtle or logical but it is ridiculously fun, and I’d love to see more from this well realised zombie swarmed world. A world well captured in some superb cinematography from Snyder.
It also helps that the roster of characters have enough about them to emerge as more than just meat for the walking dead. It’s an Aliens inspired team at the centre of this story. A team with character, charisma and toughness, and Bautista cuts a strong figure as their leader, who also has his emotions to keep in check, and his past to mend in an environment where all could literally be devoured away from him. That said some of the show stealers here come in the colourful supporting cast. Tig Notaro’s straight talking no nonsense taking pilot Marianne is an absolute joy (and gets some of the best laughs), while Omari Hardwick’s Vanderohe and Matthias Schweighöfer’s safecracking wiz Ludwig develop a really enjoyable chemistry as opposites who come together. It is just a satisfying team and barring one or two unscrupulous characters, you are invested in their survival and with some of the losses come genuine disappointment.
Army of the Dead feels precisely like what it is, the work of a team who are relishing their freedom in this zombie-riddled world. From the gruesome opening to the sequel-baiting inevitable closing scene, this is a world you enjoy being in and are excited to see expand (Netflix already has an animated tie-in, prequel and potential sequel on the cards). It is absurd, it is mad but most importantly it is so nice to see a great big budget zombie film like this back out there biting and clawing at the mainstream film schedule! Army of the Dead is a blast.
We are looking for initial adopters / testers of our site's new functionality and tools.
If you are a writer or entertainment enthusiast and early access as a tester interests you, visit our join page to get in touch.